Unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested.
These are some of the most recurring words on my report cards every semester from kindergarten until high school.
I was that one student who asks too much, gets bored too easily, has short attention span and resides on the edge of weirdness. Thus, most of my teachers simply did not know how to handle me.
I was an artistic kid who broke out in song in the middle of class, doodled my whole notebook to the point there was little space for actual note-taking and was famous for impersonating colleagues and teachers. And did I mention the nonstop singing?
So how come I survived school and became a scholar wannabe myself? Through art.
It took me years and more that few visits to the educational psychologist to figure out that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. My head was different. Instead of dealing with one thing at a time, my head was a constant web browser with 15 tabs open! And I was using them all at once!
As soon as I figured that out, a revolution came about: instead of forcing myself to focus on one task for quite some time as my teachers instructed me to do, I started having 4 or 5 tasks in front of me at the same time. I would tackle them in parts, shifting from one to another while intercalating them with doodling, singing, dancing or fiction writing. It took me a little longer, but I started nailing all of my assignments and actually being able to do them all.
Highly creative people are wired that way because creativity is nothing but the connection of previously conceived ideas that were separated, and now are confronted. So my highly creative brain is way more interested in connecting ideas than focusing in acquiring new ones. And by giving it time and space to create between input sessions, it became easier and easier to focus during those periods.
From this very personal experience I have noticed that there are so many different learning styles and I, as a teacher, should try to embrace and celebrate these differences in the classroom. However, it is not unusual to hear teachers complaining about fidgety students in their classrooms. So how can we tackle that situation, then?
Ways to cater for these highly creative beings are: give them space to breathe and process all the information that they are coping with both external and internally; prepare activities that promote critical thinking or a connection between concepts; include art in your classroom, in the form of drawings, fiction writing, poetry writing, dancing/movement or drama games.
I’m sure that after a little Drama, the unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested humans in your class will give you no drama at all.
Dear ESL Drama Gamers, a promise is a promise!
Here is the second part of the summarized inspiratons IATEFL 2015 provided me.
Lots of artsy love,
ESL Drama Queen
Here is the second part of the series of posts about my favourite talks and workshops throughout the four days of IATEFL 2015 Annual Conference and my personal comments about each of them.
Some of the quotes were heard at events specifically about arts, some of them at talks that had completely different topics. Despite being heterogenous, all of them are relevant to one who is eager to include drama games in ELT in one way or another, for transdisciplinary approaches require transdisciplinary theoretical basis.
A few of them may seem obvious, however I believe that the strongest epiphany one can have is truly noticing for the first time what the eyes failed to see for so long.
I hope they can be as useful and inspiring to you as they were to me. And may you all sail through the rough yet fulfilling, known yet fairly unexplored waters of using art, theatre and creativity in ELT.
Uncovering expertise in coursebook writing
Julie Norton & Heather Buchanan
Bio: University lectures at the University of Leeds and Nottingham and materials writers for Oxford University Press.
Practical constrains – word count, time and spread limit
Creativity constrains – using the right kind of language, linking deadlines with creativity
Following the brief – who are you writing for, coping with changes in briefs during the project
Managing the process”
ESL Drama Queen: When a teacher starts creating his/her own material some of these challenges don’t apply, though some do. For instance, planning the format – how much space on a page is going to be utilized and why – choosing the best language to get maximum effectiveness and managing the time taking to prepare and execute activities. This also applies to developing new games and inserting them in the lesson plan.
Write with someone
Be prepared to take criticism
Think about how other people would use the material
Be self-critical, meticulous, flexible Imagine what it will look like on the page
Manage your time within the day
Be aware of your own principles about teaching and learning and the principles of the project
Write answer key
Start at end point and work your way backwards
Get classroom experience
Be alert for new ideas”
ESL Drama Queen: All of these tips are also applicable when inserting drama games in a lesson plan. The best way to make the best out of a drama game is to sync it to the teaching point of the day and using the game as a means to achieve that goal. In order to do that, the process is very similar to that of writing brand new material: you have to look at the goal you want to achieve in the end of the class and think about each phase you are going to develop in order to get there. Then analyze the games you know and think about which one could help each phase you developed and how they could be included in the lesson. Bear in mind these tips above as well and the lesson will probably work out fine.
Emotional Engagement for adult sudents
Bio: Herbert Puchta holds a PhD in English – with a focus on ELT pedagogy, has been Professor of English at the Teacher Training University in Graz, and is a past President of IATEFL. He is also one of the most influencial authors in YL.
Personalize the content
Tackle emotional inteligence
Allow teacher’s personality to be shown
Make sure the classroom is a safe place
Make activities relevant
Provide the element of surprise
Use music and movement
Make sure students feel included
Provide and ask for meaningful feedback
Allow some thinking time”
“Emotion is part of the process, and not its conterpart; emotions and intelligence go hand in hand (Lazarus and Lazarus)”
“Neuronal connexions grow as the chid gets older: that’s PHYSICAL learning. The brain physically grows when we learn. This growth is more extensive and powerful when emoton is envolved. Emotion here is also physical, it’s adrenaline, dopamine and serotonine, who influence sinapsis. Therefore emotions are like fertilizers for learning. That’s why emotional engagement is key for the learning process. Learning is also a physical process. the brain is an organ of emotion”
“Focused attention (Egbert): it is easier to focus on something that we consider to be relevant”
ESL Drama Queen: All of the above can be successfuly achieved by proposing games in the classroom that connect the teaching point of the day with emotional skills development. In order to allow both language learning and emotional engagement to coexist, I’d reccomend choosing a drama game that targets actors’ emotional development and adapt it in order to include your teaching point during the playing process. This way, the production of that specific piece of language will coexist with the emotional development of the group.
“Emotional engagement is a step further from integration”
ESL Drama Queen: Integration as I see it is external to the participants: I can be part of a group because I feel safe and comfortable with the people in it, but that does not mean I am actively emotionaly engaged to everyone in it or the topics we talk about. Engagement to my mind can only be achieved when I am aware of my own self and I personally make the choice to do, say and feel things in the group.
Authors: Doff, Lazarus and Lazarus, Thaine, Purpura, Zull
Well, this was part 2 of the IATEFL 2015 events to be reported here on ESL Drama Queen.
Stay tuned for more to come the next few days.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope!
And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!!
There is nothing more terrifying than a cold audience.
That horrifying feeling of talking to students and getting….. NOTHING!
Or worse: getting nothing but complaints!
I can still remember – with shivers on my spine – a certain group I once had that no matter what I tried, they remained unsatisfied.
They would constantly complain about everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.
The class is too slow. Now it’s too fast. Your accent is too American. There are too many windows in this classroom… The list is endless.
I thought that they would never go for playing games in the classroom since they liked NOTHING about the course: and I was right.
But, as I am a terribly stubborn human being, I decided to insist on it anyway.
I remember the first time I proposed a game to them. They looked at me with a ‘what the hell’ face and, as I insisted, they did it in a very cranky way.
And so it went for the next month: me insisting on the games, they doing it out of obligation and ‘good will’.
I only kept doing it because, honestly, they would complain about anything anyway, so I decided to make the classes a little more lively, even if just for a few moments.
And you know what happened? They complained!
But this time, in English!
And that right there was my reward.
They might not have noticed at the time, but the games were actually helping them improve their fluency – and I could notice!
I just kept saying to myself, ‘They complaining in English now! In ENGLISH!!!!’
So one day I did something sneaky: I recorded the whole class.
Afterwards, I sent them the video via email and asked them to pay attention to how much L1 and how much English they were speaking. And that changed everything.
They still complained about the classroom, my accent, the textbook, the coordination, the duration of the class…………….. But they were happy they were speaking English.
That was one of the most difficult groups I’ve ever had, but of one thing I’m sure: there is nothing a very stubborn teacher who insists on getting their students to learn can’t do!
„Dramapädagogik ist ein Ansatz, der die Mittel des Theaters zu pädagogischen Zwecken einsetzt. Im Vordergrund steht dabei nicht primär das Ergebnis, nämlich die Produktion eines Theaterstücks, sondern der Lernprozess in allen seinen Dimensionen: physisch, ästhetisch (sinnlich), emotional und kognitiv. «Drama» kommt aus dem Griechischen und heisst «Handlung». Dramapädagogik ist dementsprechend eine Pädagogik, die handlungsbezogenes ganzheitliches Lernen herbeiführt.“
“Drama Pedagogy is an approach that utilizes Theatre for educational purposes. “Drama” comes from the Greek “action”. Result – or presentation – is not the primary goal, but the learning process in all its dimensions: physical, aesthetic (sensual), emotional and cognitive. Drama Pedagogy is therefore a pedagogy that allows acquisition to be practical and empirical”
A promisse of insights. That is the feeling one gets when embarking on the journey that is Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht. I have just begun to read it, however I could not wait to share it here with you guys.
The book is in German and, as far as I know, there are no English versions. So I have humbly set myself the task of reading it and summarizing the most interesting parts the author brilliantly exposes.
Elektra Tselikas-Portmann has extensive work as a drama therapist, psychotherapist, drama teacher and supervisor. In Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht, she depicts the idea of using Drama Pedagogy in the language classroom by giving the reader reasons why this approach is beneficial, manners to start practicing it, ways to achieve diverse goals with it in the classroom, a few practical exercises and theoretical basis for her thesis.
As mentioned before, I have just started reading it and here I will try to disclosure my impressions of the very first part of the book – which honestly seems very promising.
The author begins with a brief commentary of what Drama Pedagogy – Theaterpädagogik – is: an approach that utilizes theatre as a means to achieve pedagogical goals. This practice does not base itself in presenting a theatrical play, but enabling the dramatic process which students go through via drama games and, therefore, fostering a diverse kind of learning. In this sense, Drama Pedagogy allows participants to acquire knowledge in a more natural way via dramatic practice.
Tselikas also affirms that Drama Pedagogy is a means to include new ideas and creativity in the communication-oriented lesson plan: it provides the classroom activities with lifelike situations and places that the students are studying and allows them to practice and experience those scenarios in a safe and controlled environment before using the language in the ‘real world’.
After this introduction, the reader is presented with a table of contents which includes information about the inborn human susceptibility towards playing and acting – abilities explored by the Drama Pedagogy.
She explains, though, that these processes – although inherent in every human being – are blocked as time passes by rationality and moral values learned in social life. One of the goals of Drama Pedagogy is also to restore these abilities and bring them to the surface once again and through them, enable a free and creative environment in the classroom.
Neither the teacher nor the students should be professional actors in order to benefit from Drama Pedagogy, according to the author: the objective is merely achieving educational goals, and not contributing to training new actors. And to achieve these educational goals, one must build a challenging representation of real life through drama in order to promote the development of the students’ language skills through metaphors, symbols, roles and emotion.
Honestly, isn’t that mouth-watering?
I will keep posting summaries of this book to you guys, so stay tuned!
As usual, have fun and enjoy the games!
Finding activities to have your students practice Reported Speech or 3rd Person Singular is not hard. There are lots of great approaches out there.
However, I have often heard from teachers that sometimes the practice of these grammar topics in particular can be a challenge because, depending on how it is conducted, it can be a little artificial and mechanic.
Bearing that in mind, I decided to test several Drama Games in order to promote a more natural and fluent practice moment in the classroom.
One of the games that worked the best with several age and language levels was “Gossip”.
I like it especially because it can be adapted for either outgoing or introverted groups of people, eliminating the dreaded feeling of being on the spot as one has to report something to the whole class.
Caution though! During this activity students will be doing a lot of talking and it will be up to you, teacher, to monitor their performance. It is important to have a correction moment afterwards, but not during the game, since it can impair fluency and foster anxious behavior from students.
Well, that being said, I hope you and your students have lots of fun gossiping in your classroom!
Drama Game: Gossip
Language level: all
Aim: Acquire and report information
Material: Set of pre-written questions, paper to make notes
Timing: 7-10 min
Have students either sit or stand in a circle, depending on how outgoing or introverted they are.
Assign partners for pairwork. Partners should be sitting next to each other. This is “Pair 1”.
Ask students to look at their partner “1” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘1’”.
Ask students to look at the person sitting on their other side. That’s “Pair 2”.
Ask students to look at their partner “2” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘2’”.
(This brief activity of looking people in the eye and verbally expressing who they are enables students to better comprehend the logistics of the game, and it tends to loosen them up too)
At your command, students look at their partners, either “1” or “2”. Say: “1”. “2”. “2”. “1”. “1”.
(This is a warm up to keep them alert and responsive.)
Tell them now it’s for real.
Tell students that they will interview their partner in “Pair 1” and they can take notes of their partners answers.
Tell students that they will gossip about their “partner 1” to their “partner 2”.
You will say the number of the partner and they have to either interview or gossip about their partners.
Model with some students. Check if everybody understood the intructions.
Have students do the activity as you give them the command “Talk to partner ‘1’” or “Talk to partner ‘2’”.
PS: Don’t forget to walk around and take notes of positive and negative production. At the end of the activity, you can conduct correction and praising with the whole group.
PS2: As for the content of the pre-written questions, you can grade and adapt them according to your groups’ needs and level.
I recently came across this article by Sharon Fennessey where she disclosures a few drama games to be used in the classroom and I though it was quite interesting.
The text below is my take on it and a few addaptations of the excercises she proposes to be used in the ESL/EFL classroom.
Have fun and enjoy the games!
Language acquisition through arts is Sharon Fennessey’s academic field of expertise. Thus, her article Using theater games to enhance language arts learning attempts to convey to readers not only the importance but also the use of theater games in the classroom as a tool to enable students to better master English as a second language.
In order to achieve her goal, the author leads the subject in by sharing personal experience with her fifth grade class and the learners’ reaction – which according to her testimony is exquisite. Furthermore, Fennessey points out that drama is taken seriously by all of those involved, teacher and students, and it is also recognized as an equally valued subject when compared to math, reading and writing, for instance.
That being said, a number of reasons why these games ought to be integrated in the lesson plan are mentioned, together with authors that support these beliefs:
- Improvement of social skills: concentration, confidence, and cooperation (Fennessey, 2000).
- Development of fluency in language and non-verbal communication skills (Cornett, 1999).
- Improvement in fluency and pronunciation, especially for ESL learners who are not able to practice much for lack of speaking opportunities outside the classroom (Burke & O’Sullivan, 2002).
- Development of language and language-related abilities through drama, based on the widespread view of linguists “that language is primarily a spoken art”. (Stewig & Buege, 1994).
Since the article is clearly not aimed at teachers who have previously had any sort of theater training, it unfolds by soothing inexperienced professionals and reassuring that “the classroom teacher does not need to be a creative drama specialist to successfully lead a drama activity”.
Moreover, the aims of drama games are exposed through the theory of one of the most renowned authors on the subject: Viola Spolin. The aspects of Spolin’s work (Spolin, 1986) which were brought up are:
- Drama games are meant to facilitate actors’ awareness of their work instruments: body, voice and intellect.
- Drama games are designed to help actors better focus on characters’ tasks, solve problems, interact with the cast, be alert, among other aims.
The purposes above-mentioned may also be applied in the classroom for the sake of verbal and non-verbal communication development. This framework of attributes is by no means unimportant or irrelevant to the ESL teacher and learner. It is well known that learners who are focused, have a sense of belonging in the group, feel at ease in the classroom and are alert have a much better outcome in terms of actual learning.
Though Fennessey presents only a few points on Spolin’s work, even the most unfocused of readers could grasp the link between acting techniques and abilities that are vital to the success of a language class. In fact, since this link has been disclosed, now there would be a golden opportunity for exposing practical ways in which these two universes could be put together. And that is precisely what the author does.
Much similarly to the outline on Spolin’s well-known book Theater games for the classroom, Fennessey chooses to first set the scene to readers and introduce the topic theoretically. Only after that, games and practical tips are given in the form of several short paragraphs leading readers through the steps of the games.
Until this point, theory, reasons and relevance have been presented. From this moment on, a series of descriptions of drama games which the author has successfully used in the language arts classroom are exposed and a summary of their aims and possible applications (my own theories) is as follows:
- One-line improvisations:
- Aim: coordinate body and voice creatively
- Possible application: vocabulary practice – sports, professions, food, among others.
- The teacher can narrow down the possible ‘transformations’ of the given object to the pieces of vocabulary learned during class.
- Identify the object:
- Aim: enhance concentration and develop “the use of sensory detail in descriptive language”
- Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – modals and verbs to express uncertainty.
- The teacher can use this game as a less-controlled or freer practice of the language to express uncertainty.
- Aim: developing trust amongst students
- Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – directions and locations.
- This can easily be incorporated to a class in which the main goal is to enable students to give and ask for directions and locations.
- Role-playing book characters and Improvising a scene from literature:
- Aim: promote understanding of traits and developing a character
- Possible application: post-reading activity.
- Schools that include readers in their syllabus can surely benefit from this kind of activities. Instead of just demanding students to express themselves in writing, teachers could add these games as wrap up activities or moments to assess them on reading comprehension skills.
Last but not least, the author enlightens the readers on the subject of balance. Surely a class which is enriched by having drama games added to the lesson would be enjoyable and effective as opposed to one that is not. However, it is wise to bear in mind the idiom ‘moderation in all things’.
Seatwork should also be included, especially since paper and pencil are still most valued by school systems. Actually a balance must be the aim, and the effort should be to combine stirring and settling activities alternately.
Overall, the article meets its purpose of introducing the topic of theater games in the language classroom. Nevertheless, had the author indicated more theories or stuck to one with more depth, I suppose the reader could have benefited more.
FENNESSEY, Sharon M., “Using Theater Games to Enhance Language Arts Learning” (2006). Faculty Publications. Paper 68. Page 689. http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/facultypublications/6
Spolin, Viola. (1986). Theater games for the classroom. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
It was my Drama teacher at the language school I studied at: also quite young, energetic and somehow adventurous. He was the one that, after two years of helping me with my English, suggested I helped him manage the theatre groups he was responsible for.
At first I thought he was kidding, but then I realized maybe I did have an interest bigger than just learning a language twice a week and rehearsing a theatrical play once a week – maybe I genuinely felt curious and excited about the idea of helping others. And I guess he saw that in me and gave me a chance.
Rehearsals began in March and we were looking after around 30 students ageing from 9 to 15 every week for three hours. My Fridays were never as fun as those. I looked forward to Fridays like those kids did to Christmas!
I learned so much from those two years I spent assisting my former teacher: work ethics, dealing with students, dealing with parents, planning classes, time management, classroom management and – what would become my professional life’s obsession – drama games.
I first came into contact with drama games as they were traditionally meant to be used: as a means for the actors to prepare themselves for rehearsal and presentation. And for a long time I lacked to see the connection between those activities that helped us rehearsal and the language class I had twice a week.
It took one book and a very special person to open my mind to that possibility. The book was Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook and the very special person is a dear friend that unfortunately is no longer with us. He also had started as a student and then decided to become a teacher – a path I myself would choose later on – and he had figured out the connection between drama games and the classroom. Not only figured out, he perfected it bearing in mind the syllabus, demands and requirements of the school he taught at.
He got so good at it and he was such an inspiration to so many around him, that in a few years he became a teacher trainer. And guess who had figured out she wanted to be a teacher and was his pupil by then? Yes, yours truly. And that was when I got a crash course in drama games in the classroom for the first time.
He gave me the book; he ministered the training course; he gave me a path and a passion. And every time I think about him not being here anymore it saddens me that the world can no longer benefit from his great ideas. Though his legacy endures.
Lots of us lucky enough to have been taken under his wing at the time still work with drama games in the classroom and believe in its effectiveness as a tool to facilitate language learning.
If it hadn’t been for these two very important teachers/colleagues/friends that life was kind enough to have put in my path, who knows if I would be where I am today.
Teachers matter. What we say and do have meaning and can affect our students deeply. So if we affect them, let us affect them affectionately. And as I learned from these two very affectionate teachers: drama games can help us do that.
So once again, see you guys next time and have fun with the games.
(ESL Drama Queen)
Viola Spolin is an institution. Writing about her feels both like talking about an old well-known friend and reviewing the works of a genius. It is gratifying and terrifying at the same time. But I will try to do my best.
The woman did it all: research, development and advertisement. Had she not decided to look further into the academic side of Theater and Pedagogy and make her ideas available to the world, many would have never come into contact with Drama Games and their use in the classroom (yours truly included).
My first experience with Viola Spolin’s work was through a book that a former teacher and coworker gave me for teachers’ day: Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received. Really.
The book changed my perspective in such a way that I immediately got caught in the fantastically inebriating Drama spider web. The book is edited in such a way that she is able to convince you little by little that you will no longer be able to teach a class without drama anymore. It worked on me.
The book is divided in 20 parts, however I can see three big blocks grouping them together:
- Why one should use these games in the classroom
- Categorized drama games
- Preparing a theatrical presentation
The first part can be either a trigger for a teacher that has already been curious about the theme or the basis of a convincing argumentation for the skeptical teacher. It is successful in explaining when, where and how these games can be used and how helpful they can be in the classroom environment.
Part number two is the bulk of the book, where Spolin depicts a plethora of games for several objectives: movement, voice, observation, character building, communication, etc…
It is a guide, almost like a lesson plan, where all the games are there, ready to be used. It is one of the most mouthwatering ready-to-use game menus out there!
The last part is a compilation of tips and activities for the teacher to develop and manage all the phases of a theatrical presentation with the students.
In utter shock with that new world of never-ending options, I wondered: how could I apply those amazing ideas to my day-to-day classroom routine without interfering with the syllabus I was supposed to follow? And there it was, my first bump on the dramatic road.
Everything that was written on that magical book was fantastic – on paper. My reality was a much different scenario: I did not have the freedom to choose my own syllabus or the pace of the course where I worked at the time. Everything was already formatted and handed out to me, and my coordinators expected me to teach that exact content at that exact pace. There was little room for my own spice in the recipe.
Right then and there I knew that using Theater would be virtually impossible with my students. There simply was not enough time for that. Also, I have always enjoyed classroom activities that are intrinsically connected to the topic of the day’s class. So how could I connect the entire syllabus of the semester to a play? I would have to do that in order to make the content of the theatrical experience be meaningful to both the students and my coordinator. But it was just too much work with little chance of actually happening.
And that’s when the light bulb went on in my head: maybe I do not have to provide my students with the complete theatrical experience. Maybe they could benefit just from the drama games from the second part of the book, without even noticing that those activities have anything to do with theater whatsoever. Bingo.
As soon as I realized that, me, my coordinator and my students starting benefitting from the works of the marvelous Viola Spolin. Of course every game had to be adapted to the class, syllabus and classroom that I was teaching, but it was worth it!
Each activity would take me a maximum of 15 minutes, the students were more communicative, engaged, alert and also getting along better. I too noticed that fluency, intonation, pronunciation and overall awareness of the language was improved considerably in all groups that were exposed to Spolin’s material.
I highly recommend the book as reference and inspiration for ESL/EFL teachers. But bear in mind that the author did not think about Language Learning specifically when she wrote the book, so some activities have to be modified or adapted to one’s reality.
I hope I could do Viola Spolin justice and that you can benefit from the words I wrote.
If you want to purchase this book and also contribute to this website click on either this affiliate link or the one in the beginning of the text to go to amazon.com.
See you next time and have fun with the games!